EXCERPT: Sebastian Junger's 'War'

He cuts the ammo rack off his chest and pulls the rip cord on his ballistic vest to extricate him from that and then cuts his clothing off to look for wounds. Brennan's been hit multiple times in the legs and has a huge shrapnel wound in his side and has been shot in the lower half of his face. He's still conscious and keeps complaining that there's something in his mouth. It's his teeth, though Giunta doesn't tell him that.

The B-1 fl ying overhead drops two bombs on Hill 1705, and that stuns the enemy enough that the Americans are able to consolidate their position. The Third Platoon medic arrives and gives Brennan a tracheotomy so he can breathe better, and then they get him ready for the MEDEVAC. A Spectre gunship and a couple of Apaches are finally able to distinguish Americans from the enemy and start lighting up the hillsides with cannon and gunfi re, and half an hour later the MEDEVAC comes in and they start hoisting casualties off the ridge.

When they're done, the rest of First Platoon shoulder their gear and resume walking home. "We waited for First Platoon for hours," Hijar told me about that night, "and once we linked up with them it was still two and a half hours' walk back to the KOP. You could just tell on the guys' faces, it wasn't the right time to ask. You already knew what the answer was going to be. Some of them were walking around with bullet holes in their helmets."

Brennan doesn't survive surgery. Mendoza is dead before he even leaves the ridge. Five more men are wounded.

Then there's Rougle from the day before, as well as Rice and Vandenberge. It's been a costly week. It's been the kind of week that makes people back home think that maybe we're losing the war.

From the book WAR (c) 2010 by Sebastian Junger. Reprinted by permission of Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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